The Effect of Ocean Acidification on Calcifying Organisms in Marine Ecosystems: An Organism-to-Ecosystem Perspective

Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics

Vol. 41:127-147 (Volume publication date December 2010)
First published online as a Review in Advance on August 2, 2010


Ocean acidification (OA), a consequence of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, poses a serious threat to marine organisms in tropical, open-ocean, coastal, deep-sea, and high-latitude sea ecosystems. The diversity of taxonomic groups that precipitate calcium carbonate from seawater are at particularly high risk. Here we review the rapidly expanding literature concerning the biological and ecological impacts of OA on calcification, using a cross-scale, process-oriented approach. In comparison to calcification, we find that areas such as fertilization, early life-history stages, and interaction with synergistic stressors are understudied. Although understanding the long-term consequences of OA are critical, available studies are largely short-term experiments that do not allow for tests of long-term acclimatization or adaptation. Future research on the phenotypic plasticity of contemporary organisms and interpretations of performance in the context of current environmental heterogeneity of pCO2 will greatly aid in our understanding of how organisms will respond to OA in the future.